As Abortion Numbers Drop in South Dakota, Hundreds of Women Go Out-of-State

Pro-life advocates say the numbers show that abortion rates are sensitive to state laws and South Dakota is moving in the right direction, but there's more to be done.

By Lisa Kaczke

South Dakota's abortion numbers have decreased by 55% over the past decade to reach a historic low last year, but that doesn't account for the hundreds of South Dakotans finding providers out of state.

Whilenearly 300 South Dakota women received abortions in the state last year, at least another almost 200 South Dakotans had abortions in Minnesota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Montana — Iowa and Wyoming don't have tallies for abortions performed on out-of-state residents, according to data from state health departments.

Pro-life advocates say the numbers show that abortion rates are sensitive to state laws and South Dakota is moving in the right direction, but there's more to be done.

"While South Dakota moves to eliminate all elective abortions from the state through education and legislation, it's clear pro-lifers in less conservative states have plenty of work to do in building a culture of life where they live," said Dale Bartscher, executive director of South Dakota Right for Life.

But others say the numbers aren't so black-and-white.

The number of South Dakotans receiving out-of-state abortions has fluctuated from year to year, and the ups and downs can't be directly tied to legislation adding abortion restrictions passed by South Dakota lawmakers, according to the Argus Leader analysis. 

Since 2008, the annual number of South Dakota women who have received out-of-state abortions has ranged from 104 to 190, and some may be situations where the woman traveled to another state because it has fewer abortion restrictions.

"Lawmakers in South Dakota have made it incredibly difficult to access abortion, but it's hard to attribute these numbers to a particular thing because they fluctuate," Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Jennifer Aulwes said.